Naming of Names Bob Leverett
June 21, 2009


I'll see if I can get an answer for you. Peak names out here are often interesting and usually unless a mountain is named for a well known person, there will be several interpretations of the name. A few are clear. For example, Mount Eolus is named for the Greek god of the winds. That name reflect class on the part of the namer. I like it a lot. Mt. Ouray is another fine name. It is named for a great chief of the Utes - most appropriate out here. Sunlight Peak suggests the reflection of sunlight. I don't know, but a very acceptable name. 
Some names over in the Sangre de Cristo are great also. Humbolt Peak was named for the great German explorer Alexander Von Humbolt (Humbolt current). Blanca Peak sounds good. Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle are fine sounding names, but crestone is Spanish for cock's comb. Rooster Mountain? Sheeesh!  

Then there are the poor mountains named for politicians, miners, generals, etc. - people who either had nothing to do with the mountains bearing their names or were land exploiters, land thieves, etc. Hate those names.

In New England, the mountain names are as colorless as clear water. For a region otherwise rich in history and culture, many of the New England mountains got screwed.


[Edward Frank, June 24, 2009]

Jenny, Bob.

This is a section from Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicle."  I think this fits well with this discussion.

They came to the strange blue lands and put their names upon the lands. Here was Hinkston Creek and Lustig Corners and Black River and Driscoll Forest and Peregrine Mountain and Wilder Town, all the names of people and the things that the people did. Here was the place where Martians killed the first Earth Men, and it was Red Town and had to do with blood. And here where the second expedition was destroyed, and it was named Second Try, and each of the other places where the rocket men had set down their fiery caldrons to burn the land, the names were left like cinders, and of course there was a Spender Hill and a Nathaniel York Town. . . . (cont)

[Michele Wilson, June 24, 2009]
On many of the maps I produce for my clients, I make it a point to name
land features (brooks, roads, small mountains, huge rocks, whatever).  I
always ask my client first, of course, if they want to give a name to
something.  If not, then if I think it is worthy, I name it!  I figure
that as time goes by, and the name of something keeps popping up on maps
that float through state and local regulatory offices not to mention from
a piece of land's current owner on to the next, etc., then perhaps
everyone else will just accept the name or just assume it's already an
"official" name for something and it'll eventually show up on the USGS
maps!!!!  Not too long ago I wanted to name a road Platypus Lane but my
client instead made me name it Sleeping Dragon Lane, a fine choice indeed.
 On another property, I "gave" my client's young grandson an entire brook,
naming it "Tommy's Brook"... he couldn't have been prouder!... then, when
I learned he had a younger brother, in order to keep the peace, I "gave"
young Daniel a very pretty glade, "Daniel's Glade" (and secretly told him
that the glade was even more special than his older brother's brook... you
know, the glade being filled with dancing woods spirits and the like).
I'm sure both boys enjoyed the looks on their school chums faces when they
showed up the next Monday making claims to owning brooks and glades!  So
it goes!  A big part of a forestry consultant's job sometimes ends up
being practicing basic psychology on the various family members making up
the client base.

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[Edward Frank, June 25, 2009, Naming Trees]

ENTS, Bob,

I am ambivalent about the naming of particular trees.  I suppose it is good if the name is given in honor of some ceremonial event, like those given associated with some Native American ceremonies or to honor someone for their lifelong achievements.  Bob named a tree for me in MTSF in Massachusetts.  It is nice to have a tree named after me, but...   I see no real purpose or point of having additional trees named after me, unless I do something exceptional on a grand scale.  

There is the consideration of Naming of Names.  I am sure that Bradbury patterned his prose after real events in the naming of the west.   Trees in one sense are more ephemeral than mountains, but still they are long lived in terms of a human lifespan.  Care and consideration should be given to the naming. Will Blozan ask me if the tall Silver Maple we found on Thompson Island had a name.  I said it did not.  It serves a useful purpose for identifying a tree in conversation, but often the names are given too casually.  In Alaska there is a river named Another River because the explorers could not think of a good name for it.  

In caves people like to give names to speleothems.  This is the norm in commercial caves where every bit of flowstone is named something or other.  I don't really like this practice.  If you name something "the Whale"  people looking at it begin to compare what they see to how a whale would look.  Its essence becomes a matter of how well it compares to its namesake.  It is no longer valued for itself, for being a  unique example of whatever type of speleothem it might be.  

I suppose that naming of trees is not exactly the same thing.  They are not being compared to the person  for whom the tree is named.  But still in a lesser way naming a tree moves it slightly into the realm of human existence and may detract from its individual identity as a unique tree, as a unique being.  Perhaps human names should be reserved for those things created by humans for human purposes.  Are human names just too limiting of a boundary for a tree?

I don't know what to think about the entire process.


[Bob Leverett, June 25, 2009]


Ed, thanks for continuing the discussions on the naming of trees. It is a subject that deserves airing here on the list for a variety of reasons. So, I'll continue with the following observations.
Naming can seem dilettanteish and superficial - and it can be. Most of the time I don't seek to name trees, but for a few, I will see reasons to affix a name, and not just to be a good fellow. My experience has been that for people who visit an ENTS-named tree with an Ent, the tree name is usually acknowledged by the visitors, but soon forgotten. Bottom line - no harm done. 
In the case of naming trees for other Ents, it is my way of honoring the work of lady and fellow Ents in basically a harmless way. The names are not recorded on official maps and probably won't stick for long periods. The names are never meant to humanize the trees. Most importantly, I, as many of the rest of you, connect to these trees in deeper ways than sporting motives, a utilitarian mindset, or even serious scientific research. 
In my case, I don't like trees named for me. I prefer naming trees for others who have done outstanding work toward protecting the environment. In the case of naming multiple trees for Will, Lee, and several others of you, it is just my way of saying thanks for the extraordinary work, quality and quantity, that you all do in adding to our knowledge of trees, spreading the word, and supporting the idea, spirit, and activities of ENTS. Beyond acknowledgements, there is often a spiritual component in the activity of naming - a ritualistic connecting of Ents and trees.
Of course, there is the negative side of naming - but the negatives come mostly through the official processes. What really sets me off is the official naming of natural features, including trees, for nature exploiters and dumb-ass politicians. Here is but one of literally thousands of examples that could be given. Mount Elbert, the high point of the entire Rocky Mountain chain, is defamed mightily by having to bear the name of a past Indian-hating governor of Colorado and a full fledged land exploiter. However, I can't claim purity of motives in accepting names. I'm fairly tolerant of naming trees for military generals. I guess that is to be expected from my military background. Oh well, this isn't about objectivity. Emotions do play the biggest part.
I think that the act of naming a tree is either sullied (regrettably) or cleansed (hopefully) by the intentions of the namer. In the case of my naming trees for Kip and Laura Stransky, we have two absolutely beautiful people, people who do good on many levels and people who work tirelessly for the environment - in highly constructive ways. They work (or worked in the case of Kip) for agencies that for environmentalists have mixed reputations. Yet Kip and Laura have never lost their bearings and do not apologize for being 'environmentalists'. BTW, thinking of government employees, Don Bertolette and Don Bragg are two more examples of employees who have never lost their bearings. 
In terms of my seemingly undisciplined burst of naming activity yesterday, it was not entered into cavalierly. I could clearly see that Laura loved those big Ponderosas and tall, straight Blue Spruce. She noted their locations, she noted their forms, and interpreted past events that had effected them. She and Kip are part of the land out here in the most laudatory way. They live humbly and simply and naturally with the land. They are its protectors and not just in a general, 'touchy feely' kind of way. Laura has been a primary old growth inventory specialist almost since the program started out here around 1990. Kip has done a lot of restoration work and is an excellent ornithologist. Laura and her associate know of Lee Frelich and acknowledged benefiting from his 2001 (?) presentation on old growth definitions. An ENTS connection between some fine folks out here and ENTS or its western extension to be has been simmering for a number of years. 

Now, I'll confess to another reason for my naming trees. It helps me to remember them. Yes, a failing memory is an awful thing to be confronted with.


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